Brussels, 26 August 2007
The European Commission is sad to hear of the death of Gaston Thorn, President of the Commission from 1981 to 1985. Thorn was a passionate European who led the Commission during a difficult period but was able to build confidence in the European project, in particular by laying the foundations of what would become the single market in which goods, capital, service and people enjoy freedom of movement.
"The Commission is saddened to hear of the death of Gaston Thorn. On behalf of the Commission and in a personal capacity, I offer my condolences to his family and to the people of Luxembourg," said José Manuel Barroso, President of the Commission, adding: "Gaston Thorn was a great European, aware that European cooperation was the only way to meet the challenges not only of his own time but those of the 21st century. His work as Commission President consolidated the foundations of the European project and opened up new avenues of integration ".
Viviane Reding, Commissioner for the Information Society and Media and also a Luxembourger, said: "Whether as a member of the Luxembourg Government, President of the United Nations General Assembly, or at the head of the European Commission, Gaston Thorn made use of his skills of oratory and his international fame to put Europe front of stage. This was much needed. It was a difficult period during which Eurosclerosis and scepticism about the common destiny of Europeans prevailed".
Gaston Thorn was President of the Commission from 1981 to 1985. During his term of office, the EU expanded to include Greece (1981) and the number of members rose to 10. The accession of Greece, and preparations for enlargement to include Spain and Portugal (1986), gave Europe a new purpose: to integrate former military dictatorships into the democratic family of nations and to strengthen the European principles of law and freedom in southern Europe.
Gaston Thorn was at the helm during a difficult period characterised by rising unemployment which gave rise to the term 'Eurosclerosis'. Thanks to his passion and clear vision, he helped to restore confidence in Europe in particular by laying the foundations for the signature, in 1986, of the Single European Act, which led to the creation of the single market.
He also presided over the development of the first Research and Development Framework Programme (1984), recognising the need to pool resources to create a Europe based on knowledge and innovation.
Before becoming President of the Commission, Thorn was Prime Minister of Luxembourg from 1974 to 1979. He was also a member of the European Parliament. He was 78.